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Facing Stressed Marine Ecosystems, Small Island States Call for Broader Legal Rules, Stronger Partnerships to Sustainably Manage Oceans, as Lisbon Conference Continues

Summary

LISBON, 28 June — Small island developing States stressed that international law, strong partnerships and honoured commitments chart the way to sustainable ocean management, calling for broader legal rules and demanding greater action from those respon…

LISBON, 28 June — Small island developing States stressed that international law, strong partnerships and honoured commitments chart the way to sustainable ocean management, calling for broader legal rules and demanding greater action from those responsible for increased pressure on marine ecosystems as high-level discussion continued in the historic maritime city.

The 2022 United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development entered its second day, bringing together representatives of Government as well as civil society in a range of conversations, from a high-level plenary to multi-stakeholder dialogues. (For background, see Press Release SEA/2143).

Flavien Joubert, Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment of the Seychelles, pointed out that the world is grappling with “giants” such as marine pollution and climate change and stressed that his country’s survival is linked to the health of the ocean. This matter concerns all States — big or small — and global initiatives, like the Ocean Conference, provide important platforms with which to advocate for change and communicate a collective aspiration for a better future. A small number of dedicated leaders can turn the tide in the fight against threats to the oceans, he added.

Jorge Lopes Bom Jesus, Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe, echoed that sentiment, emphasizing that the Ocean Conference provides a good opportunity for his country to reach out to bilateral and multilateral partners. Advocacy is a vital part of the Government’s strategy to move forward on its transition to a sustainable blue economy, and he said that this paradigm shift requires a decisive strategic choice, new investments and the sharing of expertise.

On that point, Siaosi ‘Ofakivahafolau Sovaleni, Prime Minister of Tonga, stressed that partnership is crucial for the success of sustainability initiatives, calling for a collective effort to assist his country with financing, technology transfer and capacity-building. He also urged the international community to support sustainable blue economies and negotiate instruments to address plastic pollution and protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

José Ulisses Correia e Silva, Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, similarly emphasized the need for standards and binding legal rules that express global commitments and ultimately lead to a universal declaration of ocean rights. Small island developing States are much more sea than land, and therefore are highly vulnerable to climate change and external impacts, he said, calling for strong engagement on climate finance and partnerships in innovation, science and technology.

Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, also urged that the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean be conducted under the aegis of international law, and that efforts in this area be based on science and data. He pointed out that his country serves as President of the Intergovernmental Conference tasked with negotiating an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and called on delegations to rapidly conclude an ambitious, future-proof treaty.

Detailing another legal approach, Silas Bule Melve, Minister for Climate Change of Vanuatu, pointed out that his country — as part of a coalition — is planning to ask the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on how existing international law contains protections for the oceans. The aim is not to assign blame, he said, but to find a path to bolster ambitious climate action, as the extractive focus of colonial aspirations has led to current political, economic and environmental disasters.

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Minister for Planning and Strategic Investment of Timor-Leste, stressed that the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is essential for good governance of the ocean, as “areas without governance are areas where uncertainty breeds”. He said that the Government has recently succeeded in delimiting permanent maritime boundaries with Australia and is currently working with Indonesia to achieve the same. He also pointed out that, while not all are equally responsible for the pressure put on nature, all will suffer from it and, cruelly, those who live in greatest harmony with nature often will be the first victims.

John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize, spotlighting the “huge disconnect” between words and actions to address the climate crisis, pointed out that — while Belize is doing its part to protect the ocean — its efforts, like those of most small island developing States, have been constrained by a lack of financing. While his country has demonstrated leadership in reducing emissions and protecting coastal areas, he stressed that “we demand action from those who have put us in this position”.

Steffi Lemke, Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of Germany, expressing concern about the “overheated, acidified, overfished, overused and polluted” state of the ocean, highlighted the Group of Seven (G7) environment ministers’ “Ocean Deal” adopted at the end of May. This measure provides an urgently needed framework for future protective efforts, and she further noted the G7’s commitment to start addressing plastic pollution now, rather than waiting for an international convention.

In that vein, Jitendra Singh, Minister for Earth Sciences of India, joined other speakers in detailing national plans to ban single-use plastics, which his country plans to do. Efforts are already under way to phase out plastic and polyethylene bags and promote alternatives, such as bags made from cotton or jute. He added that the Government has proposed creating a sustainable coastal and ocean research institute to meet the needs and aspirations of Pacific island countries.

David Parker, Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of New Zealand, pointed out that his country has spent over NZ$68.5 million on ocean priorities since 2018, and even more on core funding to regional agencies that are integral for helping Pacific island countries protect the ocean. He also spotlighted his country’s world-leading fisheries management system and its prioritization of protecting threatened species.

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States, called on the international community to maintain the momentum of the Our Ocean Conference, held two months ago in Palau, where more than 400 commitments — valued at over $16 billion — were made. He also encouraged countries and other stakeholders to join the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Action Alliance, stressing that the ocean’s problems are human-induced and are therefore subject to human solutions.

Also speaking were Heads of State and Government, ministers and representatives of Morocco (speaking for the Group of African States), Namibia, Kenya, Qatar, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Norway, Argentina, Netherlands, Saint Lucia, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Russian Federation, Solomon Islands, Zimbabwe, Maldives, Barbados, Sweden, Brazil, Croatia, Ireland, Cyprus, Mozambique, United Kingdom, Marshall Islands, Japan, Guyana, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Algeria, as well as the State of Palestine.

The Ocean Conference will reconvene in plenary at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 29 June, to continue its general debate.

General Debate

JOSÉ ULISSES CORREIA E SILVA, Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, noting that small island developing States are much more sea than land, said that his country is 99 per cent sea, and therefore, heavily vulnerable to climate change and external impacts. Expressing support for the United Nations call to action to save the oceans and protect the future, he stressed the need for standards and binding legal rules that express global commitments and ultimately lead to a universal declaration of ocean rights. Also expressing support for the Assembly resolution to end plastic pollution, he called for strong engagement on climate finance and partnerships in innovation, science and technology. “To Cabo Verde, the sea that once stood for emigration and longing,” today stands for tourism, desalinated water, fishing, food security, and the digital economy, among other things, he said, highlighting its Blue Economy Policy Charter and special zone for maritime economy.

MOHAMMED SADIKI, Minister for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, noted that there are approximately 13 million square kilometres of maritime zones — including territorial seas and some 6.5 million square kilometres of the continental shelf — under Africa’s jurisdiction. Africa’s maritime natural resources have remained largely untapped. As the world’s second largest continent and its biggest island, with more than 26,000 nautical miles of coastline, Africa is determined to sustainably harness the vast potential of its maritime domain and accelerate economic transformation and opportunities provided by the oceans. Noting that the African Union Agenda 2063 describes the “blue” economy as the new frontier of African renaissance, he said over the past decade, Africa has built a wide regional consensus to ensure that sustainable development principles are central to all maritime strategies. To realize sustainable ocean-based development, the African Group stresses the need to promote collective efforts to address inherent financial and infrastructure gaps preventing the realization of the full potential of African marine resources. The oceans are a common heritage to mankind, including the African landlocked States. Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water) and conservation of ocean and marine ecosystems will require bold and ambitious partnership, mobilization of significant financial resources, access to technologies and innovations, capacity-building and effective governance arrangements. The Ocean Conference offers a window of opportunity to “keep ambition high”, he said.

Delivering his national statement, he said that to reverse the current trend, the international community must rethink its strategies. Sharing knowledge, exchanging science and technology, and sustainable funding are necessary to preserve the ocean. Reaffirming his country’s commitment to legal instruments on marine environment, he said Morocco is developing a sustainable fishing sector and has established protected marine areas. It also raised its nationally determined contribution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

SAARA KUUGONGELWA-AMADHILA, Prime Minister of Namibia, noting that her country is one of 38 coastal States out of 55 on the African continent, said “we are creating links through road, rail and air transport infrastructure, turning what used to be landlocked countries into sea-linked countries”. How the international community relates to and interacts with the ocean in all its mystique and as a powerful economic force will have direct impact on sustainable development, she said, adding that the ocean is at the heart of Namibia’s economy. Calling for strong multilateralism to support the mobilization of financial resources and address challenges such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, climate change, food insecurity and diminishing biodiversity, she expressed support for an action-oriented approach to leverage the benefits of the ocean economy. Further, the interconnectedness of the global economy demands that piracy must be seen as a common problem, she underscored, noting that it threatens global supply chains and tourism.

SIAOSI ‘OFAKIVAHAFOLAU SOVALENI, Prime Minister of Tonga, aligning himself with the Pacific Small Island Developing States and the Pacific Islands Forum, said that — as a State whose territory is 98 per cent ocean — Tonga holds Sustainable Development Goal 14 “dear to her heart”. Conservation efforts and sustainable development in Tonga depend on a healthy, resilient ocean that can function, among other things, as a climate regulator. Since 2017, the Government has worked to fulfil its voluntary commitments, including the development of the first national ocean-management plan, the protection of marine areas and the development of a blue-economy strategy to sustainably harvest ocean resources. Further, Tonga — as a small island developing State — recognizes the importance of science and the transfer of marine technology. In this, partnership is crucial for the success of sustainability initiatives, and he called for a collective effort to assist his country with financing, technology transfer and capacity-building. Despite progress made thus far, ambitious national, regional and global actions are necessary, and he urged the international community to support sustainable blue economies and negotiate instruments to address plastic pollution and protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

JORGE LOPES BOM JESUS, Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe, said that his country has a consensus vision to protect the ocean to achieve a better future for its people. The Ocean Conference offers a good opportunity for Sao Tome and Principe to reach out to bilateral and multilateral partners. Noting that advocacy is a vital part of his country’s strategy to move forward on its transition to the sustainable, blue economy, he said the Government is preparing a law which will help the country to be fully aligned in this direction. This paradigm shift requires a decisive strategic choice, new investments, and sharing of know-how, he stressed. A new national growth model is needed as his country’s current model places pressure on the ocean and marine ecosystem. He then called on the international community for financial and institutional support to address current challenges. Sao Tome and Principe has a large exclusive economic zone, 160 times its land surface, he noted, adding that it has identified technical areas that require support.

TOBIKO KERIAKO, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Kenya, associating with the statement of the African Group, said his country’s co-hosting of this Conference is an example of its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Kenya is developing an inclusive national blue economy strategic plan, he said, highlighting the need to promote ecotourism. Kenya banned the manufacture and use of polythene bags and extended the same to single use of plastics in protected areas, he said, also expressing commitment to the establishment of a legally binding instrument by 2024 for the complete elimination of marine plastic litter. Further, the country is supporting the development of smallholder aquaculture, prioritizing fisheries value chains for small-scale artisanal fishers and establishing an institute for blue economy and ocean studies at the University of Nairobi. Pointing out that financial flows towards the global South for implementation of the oceans agenda has been slow, he underscored Kenya’s commitment to the establishment of a blue economy bank/fund.

SHEIKH FALEH BIN NASSER BIN AHMED AL THANI, Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Qatar, detailed national efforts to advance marine management and oversight in order to promote sustainability. He also pointed out that the Government has provided $100 million to support efforts by small island developing States and least-developed countries to address climate change and associated natural disasters. Qatar has also contributed $2 million to repair the oil tanker Safer, prevent oil leakage and avert an environmental disaster. Additionally, the Government has developed a national strategy to preserve and manage marine resources and has implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags, which will be replaced with decomposable multi-use bags. Welcoming efforts by all participants that led to the 2020 political declaration titled “Our ocean, our future, our responsibility”, he expressed hope that the same will be adopted during this Conference.

JOHN BRICEÑO, Prime Minister of Belize, said that the twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) “saw intense deliberations but resulted in watered down decisions”, spotlighting the “huge disconnect” between words and actions. Amidst a climate crisis, the international community is on track to trigger even more catastrophic levels of climate events — “simply put, we are about to ignite the carbon bomb”, he stressed. Belize is doing its part to protect the ocean, including delivering the world’s largest debt-restructuring for marine conservation. However, like in most small island developing States, the realization of these initiatives has been constrained by a lack of financing as — despite global commitments for climate financing and conservation — only a fraction has been made available to these States. Nevertheless, the Government has worked to expand marine protected areas, designate all public lands within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System as mangrove reserves and implement a marine bond. This required difficult financial sacrifices, such as cuts in wages and the national budget, but the Government persevered for the sake of the population and the ocean. He added that, while Belize has demonstrated leadership in reducing emissions and protecting coastal areas, “we demand action from those who have put us in this position”.

VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, said his country is a maritime city State, with its history, people and economy inseparable from the ocean. Its survival and prosperity depend on the ocean, and the same can be said of all peoples, even from landlocked States. The conservation and sustainable use of the ocean must be conducted under the aegis of international law, and efforts should be based in science and data. Noting that Singapore serves as President of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, he urged all delegations to work towards the conclusion of an ambitious and future-proof treaty as soon as possible. Singapore is renewing 10 of the voluntary commitments it had submitted at the first Ocean Conference and undertaking nine new ones, including research projects relating to the sustainable management of fish populations and the study of solar energy use to facilitate coral growth. It also has launched a marine climate science programme. On the shipping front, it is spearheading a transition towards the supply of environmentally friendly ship fuel, promoting green financing and building capacity in carbon accounting within the maritime industry.

CESAR LANDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Peru, recalled that during the first Ocean Conference in 2017, his country made seven voluntary commitments mainly linked to marine research and the strengthening of capacities in terms of sustainable fisheries management. Since then, more than 60 research and scientific studies were carried out for, among others, the monitoring and conservation of species of marine biodiversity. Here in Lisbon, Peru is making 19 new commitments to save the oceans, including a national aquaculture policy and a certification programme to promote the sustainable use of marine resources. The Government has approved the National Maritime Policy 2019-2030 as the main instrument to articulate State efforts in support of the oceans. In June 2021, Peru established a national reserve in Dorsal de Nasca, the first protected marine area to preserve 12 species, such as giant squid, horse mackerel, blue shark, swordfish and yellowfin tuna. At the beginning of this year, Peru faced one of its worst ecological disasters due to an oil spill by a Spanish company. The spill affected more than 5,000 marine hectares that included numerous beaches and natural reserves, impacting hundreds of specimens and livelihoods of thousands of families. The Government, the private sector and organized civil society have been working together to remedy its terrible effects.

VARAWUT SILPA-ARCHA, Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand, drawing attention to the “bio-circular green economy model” adopted by his country, said it will strive to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and net zero emissions by 2065, with adequate and equitable financial support, technology transfer and capacity-building. Thailand has expanded its marine protected area coverage and implemented policies to combat unregulated fishing. Highlighting the high levels of plastic pollution which have jeopardized all marine life, as well as degraded the seawater, he noted Thailand’s constructive role within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Action Plan for Combating Marine Debris. Further, his country will submit a new voluntary commitment on observation and research on ocean acidification, he said, stressing: “Oceans without humans are living oceans, but [a] human without oceans is [a] dead human.”

DAVID PARKER, Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of New Zealand, said his country is a maritime State with one of the largest and most biodiverse marine areas in the world. The Government has established an oceans and fisheries ministerial portfolio to signal its commitment to a holistic, integrated approach to managing its marine environment. Noting that New Zealand has a world-leading fisheries management system, he said the protection of threatened species is an important pillar of its oceans and fisheries work. Seabirds, sharks, sea lions, penguins and Hector’s and Maui dolphins are at particular risk, he said, adding that New Zealand is working hard to protect them. Since 2018, New Zealand has spent over NZ$68.5 million on ocean priorities, and more on core funding to regional agencies that are integral to helping Pacific island countries protect the ocean. The Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is an opportunity to deepen understanding of ocean science priorities, such as the ocean-climate nexus and deep-sea ecosystems. New Zealand is engaged in negotiations at the International Seabed Authority on a regulatory regime for deep sea mining, which cannot proceed unless the marine environment is effectively protected.

LUHUT BINSAR PANDJAITAN, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment of Indonesia, describing his country as the largest archipelagic State, said its large marine ecosystem and its rich blue carbon biodiversity play a key role in regulating the ocean’s health. Expressing commitment to tackling unsustainable fishing, developing a blue economy and combating marine plastic pollution, he noted that the country has expanded its marine protected area to 28.4 million hectares. Working closely with strategic partners to develop a blue financing framework to facilitate critical investments in technical assistance and management improvement, he said his Government “will issue a blue bond under blue principles.” Highlighting the launch of a regulation on marine debris handling, he also noted the observation of the “Bulan Cinta Laut” or “Love the Ocean Month” programme, which encourages fishermen to collect garbage instead of fish for a whole month, by pricing one kilogramme of garbage as equal to one kilogramme of fish.

KAY RALA XANANA GUSMÃO, Minister for Planning and Strategic Investment of Timor-Leste, noted that the identity of his country — a small island developing State — “is anchored in the sea”. While not all are equally responsible for the pressure put on nature, all will suffer from it, and the first victims — always the most fragile and vulnerable — are, cruelly, often the very people who live in greatest harmony with nature. Underscoring that global threats demand global responses, he said his country — supported by international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — recently succeeded in delimiting permanent maritime boundaries with Australia and is currently working with Indonesia to achieve the same. He stressed that the Convention is essential for good governance of the ocean, as “areas without governance are areas where uncertainty breeds”. Highlighting the whale migration corridors and biodiversity within his country’s seas, he said the Government aims to establish a marine education centre with the support of international institutions. He added that, later today, the Pacific Small Island Developing States and Timor-Leste will adopt a joint declaration pertaining to a climate change adaptation alliance.

FLAVIEN JOUBERT, Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment of Seychelles, stressed that a small number of dedicated leaders can turn the tide in the fight against threats to the oceans. Noting that Seychelles is a small island State in Africa, he said the world is grappling with “giants”, such as marine pollution and climate change. Describing how plastic waste and flipflops occupy the country’s beautiful beaches, he stressed that the survival of Seychelles is linked to the health of the ocean, which is a matter of concern to all States, big or small. Global initiatives, like the Ocean Conference, are important as they provide a platform to advocate for change and communicate a collective aspiration for a better future. It is imperative to find the right balance between conservation and economic development. The transition to the blue economy and a circular economy is included in the country’s “business” plan, he said, expressing gratitude to partners that made it possible for Seychelles to make headway in that direction.

JOHN KERRY, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States, noting that while this is a critical moment for oceans, his delegation cannot ignore the threat presented by the Russian Federation’s brutal war of aggression, called for an unhindered flow of humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The ocean touches every aspect of human life, “from the air we breathe to the food we eat”, he said, calling on the international community to keep up the momentum of the Our Ocean Conference, held two months ago in Palau, where more than 400 commitments valued at over $16 billion were made. Stressing the ocean-climate nexus, he added that harmful emissions are making the ocean warmer, more acidic, less productive, and are driving rising sea levels. At the same time, the ocean is a source of climate solutions as well, he said, calling on the international community to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems that store carbon and tackle the problem of illegal and unregulated fishing, including through data transparency. Encouraging countries and other stakeholders to join the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Action Alliance, he stressed that the ocean’s problems are human-induced and are subject to human solutions.

ZHANHAI ZHANG, Special Envoy of China, commending the Conference’s focus on innovative, science-based solutions in the implementation Goal 14, called on the international community to deepen its scientific understanding of marine and coastal ecosystems. Highlighting China’s investments in marine satellites and remote sensing and management of spatial resources, he said the country has established many marine protected areas for wetlands and other ecosystems. Stressing the need for an ocean-related climate response, including carbon sequestration and early warning and monitoring systems, he highlighted the work of the South China Sea Tsunami Advisory Center. Also emphasizing the need to step up assistance to developing countries, especially small island developing States, he said these countries need scientific knowledge and financial support to promote the blue economy and tackle climate change. Finally, underscoring the “One China policy”, he added that Taiwan is part of his country’s territory and the grandstanding of certain countries that turn a blind eye to this reality will only result in “shame and disgrace”.

JITENDRA SINGH, Minister for Earth Sciences of India, said that his country aims to protect at least 30 per cent of its lands, waters and oceans by 2030, and is in the process of rolling out its blue economic policy. Further, the Government is working to protect marine and coastal ecosystems, mangroves and coral reefs and has proposed the establishment of a sustainable coastal and ocean research institute to meet the needs and aspirations of Pacific island countries. He went on to highlight India’s planned ban on single-use plastics, towards which efforts are under way to phase out plastic and polyethylene bags and promote alternatives such as bags made from cotton or jute. Additionally, research has begun to gather scientific data and information on marine litter in coastal waters, sediments, biota and beaches that will be used to formulate a national policy on this issue. He added that India will provide science- and innovation-based solutions to implement Sustainable Development Goal 14 through partnerships and environmentally friendly initiatives.

ESPEN BARTH EIDE, Minister for Climate and the Environment of Norway, urging that humanity must “stop taking the oceans for granted”, pointed out that — while politicians sometimes argue — humankind cannot argue with the science indicating that urgent action is needed to save, preserve and revitalize the common ocean. Noting ongoing negotiations regarding a treaty to end plastic pollution, he stressed that, while the international community finalizes legal details, “there is no need to wait”. Businesses and countries can act as if the treaty is already in force, and start to build recycling plants, ensure sufficient collection methods and begin looking for alternative materials. He went on to say that the high seas are under increasing threat from overfishing, climate change and pollution, calling for a robust treaty to govern the high seas. If managed properly, the ocean can play a crucial role in providing food, jobs and climate regulation, and he encouraged all coastal and ocean States to join the initiative to sustainably manage 100 per cent of oceans under national jurisdiction. He added that aquatic food is vital for global food security, urging more focus on this area to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (zero hunger).

JUAN CABANDIÉ, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, expressed his country’s commitment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 14. Mother Earth cannot wait any longer, neither can people who have already suffered environmental injustice. Stressing the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, he urged developed countries that grew their economies without due consideration for the environment to do their part. Drawing attention to negotiations on a legally binding global treaty on plastic pollution, he said that addressing plastics in the seas requires addressing plastics on land. Financing is vital for establishing a comprehensive waste management system that covers the entire lifecycle of plastics and changes consumer behaviours towards recycling and reuse. In that regard, Argentina is drafting a law on package production that extends the responsibility of producers and considering legislation to double the size of its marine protected area.

STEFFI LEMKE, Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of Germany, expressing concern about the “overheated, acidified, overfished, overused and polluted” state of the ocean, highlighted the Group of Seven (G7) environment ministers’ “Ocean Deal” adopted at the end of May which provides an urgently needed framework for future protective measures. Stressing the importance of concluding negotiations this year on an agreement on the conservation of biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, she called for marine areas to finally be placed under protection in Antarctica with the help of the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources. Rather than waiting for an international convention on plastic pollution, the G7 countries also committed to start taking action on this issue now, she reported.

MARKUS HARBERS, Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands, pointed out that two thirds of his country’s lowlands next to the North Sea are vulnerable to flooding, adding that this is “something we can afford to hold off with ingenious but costly water works”. Also noting, however, that the North Sea has made the Netherlands prosperous and connected to other countries, he highlighted the North Sea Agreement concluded in 2020 between the Government and other stakeholders. The North Sea is one of the most intensively used maritime regions in the world — and there are many different interests at play — but a healthy sea is in everyone’s interest. Therefore, the Agreement sets out guidelines for sustainable use of the sea, including the building of offshore wind farms and oyster reefs. He went on to say that the Netherlands seeks to work on the international level to better protect the world’s oceans, including advocating for an instrument governing biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. He added that urgent action is needed to find a solution for the neglected oil tanker Safer, calling on all to donate to “make sure the Red Sea does not turn black”.

SHAWN EDWARD, Minister for Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Science, Technology and Vocational Training of Saint Lucia, said that the Conference is taking place against the backdrop of multiple crises. Scaling up ocean action is urgent, he said, stressing the need for science-based innovative solutions. The ocean bears strategic importance to small island developing States, which heavily rely on a healthy marine environment for tourism, food, recreation and other aspects of the economy and daily life. Saint Lucia is actively engaged in creating frameworks for marine resource conservation. Its national plans promote a transition to the blue economy. The Government is also devising an action plan for marine litter management. It is time to move from ideas to action, he said, stressing the need to achieve balance among economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability through investment in science-based solutions.

VAUGHN MILLER, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of the Bahamas, described his country as a place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, at the heart of the Atlantic hurricane belt, with 100,000 square miles of ocean, most of it protected and pristine, teaming with life. “I’ve come to tell you about a nation of 400,000, welcoming millions more by boat and plane, annually,” he said, adding that while a generation ago the ocean fed his country’s economy, “today, the ocean is angry.” Industries in the Bahamas are now in danger of collapse, due to climate change, poaching and unjust global economic transitions. Stressing the importance of building a blue and green future for the youth of his country, he highlighted the need for decarbonization, renewable energy investments and marine protection. The Government has prioritized coral reef conservation and is using science and technology applications in fisheries management processes, he said, also pointing to a suite of environmental legislation, including one that introduced criminal penalties for environmental destruction.

PENNELOPE BECKLES-ROBINSON, Minister for Planning and Development of Trinidad and Tobago, highlighting the importance of ocean and marine resources to her country, noted that 81 per cent of all socioeconomic activity occurs on the coast. As a large ocean State, Trinidad and Tobago relies on coastal and ocean resources for economic growth, but the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the need for economic diversification. Therefore, the Government is working to institute a comprehensive approach to adapt to climate change, reduce vulnerability to coastal hazards and foster a sustainable blue economy. Despite progress made in these initiatives, the ocean is changing at an accelerating, alarming pace and the international community must act now to find transformative solutions for existing and future ocean challenges. Small island developing States — custodians of some of the world’s richest marine resources — require partnerships and increased financing to strengthen national capacities for evidence-based approaches to ocean management. She went on to urge the conclusion of negotiations pertaining to a treaty governing biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction in 2022.

RUSLAN EDELGERIEV, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change of the Russian Federation, expressed his country’s commitment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 14. Voicing support for Tajikistan’s initiative to reform its water sector for sustainable development, he called for the involvement of all stakeholders in sustainable development. His country will actively engage in negotiations to conclude a legally binding treaty on plastic pollution. For its part, the Russian Federation has developed a system to digitally track the path of plastic products and thus reduce the volume of plastic waste that go into the ocean. The Government has allocated an unprecedented level of funding to marine research. A specialized Government marine ship is conducting research in the North Pole seas. The Government is also developing a new mechanism to finance the country’s transition to the blue economy, including by tapping private capital.

JEREMIAH MANELE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Solomon Islands, noting that his nation and people are defined by the ocean, recalled the voluntary commitments made by his Solomon Islands at the first Ocean Conference, and pointed to the subsequent development of an integrated national ocean policy in 2019. The Government also carried out a nation-wide consultation and is finalizing its marine spatial plan. Further, it strengthened community-based resource management by improving the capacity of provincial authorities. To tackle marine pollution, Solomon Islands is amending environmental legislation and is on the verge of signing a maritime boundary treaty with Fiji this year, he said. Noting that tuna is key to his country’s food security and employment, he outlined the Government’s innovative actions to manage this highly migratory source. Also pointing to the electronic monitoring programme for fishing vessels to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he called for increased capacity-building and sustained financial assistance to maintain such measures.

NQOBIZITHA MANGALISO NDLOVU, Minister for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe, said that his country — though landlocked — is equally concerned about the health of the oceans, which provides vital products and services and must be developed sustainably. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea gives landlocked States the right to access the oceans and participate on an equitable basis in the exploitation of the surplus from living resources. He expressed regret, however, that the participation of such States in the ocean economy remains marginal, partly due to poorly developed transit and transport systems, limited resources, lack of awareness and limited access to the sea. Against that backdrop, he called for awareness-raising, financial support, capacity-building, and technology and information transfer to be extended to landlocked developing countries. He went on to note that the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased demand for single-use plastics — such as masks and gloves — and, to address this challenge, he urged promotion of sustainable production and consumption patterns, together with marine litter management and solid waste prevention at the source.

AMINATH SHAUNA, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Technology of the Maldives, describing Maldivians as “children of the sea”, said the blue waters continue to define who they are as a nation. The country’s rich ocean biodiversity powers its economy, providing the source for over two thirds of total employment, 60 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and almost all exports. It attracts visitors from around the world, keeping the tourism sector going. Taking care of the ocean is tied to the country’s survival. Maldives implemented bans on shark fishing and it continues to advocate for more sustainable regional fisheries management plans. The country has begun implementing a ban on the importation, production and sale of 13 different types of single use plastic, with the goal of phasing out all single-use plastics by 2023. She also urged all Member States to adopt the global target to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans, calling for the prompt adoption of an ocean and coastal inclusive post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

JULIETTE BABB-RILEY, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Barbados, cited Frank Collymore, a poet from her nation, who wrote that “like all who live on small islands, I must always be remembering the sea.” The history and development of her country is determined by the ocean, she said, noting that its migratory pasts were charted on the seas, first through the dehumanizing slave trade and then through the migration of many residents in their quest for better opportunities. Noting the Inter-American Development Bank’s estimates that the ocean generates $407 billion for the Caribbean, she said that hers was one of the first island nations to establish a ministry for the blue economy. Calling for increased acknowledgement of carbon sinks in small island developing States, she stressed the need for an ambitious framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The Caribbean region is also ripe for collaboration on scientific research regarding the potential uses of the pervasive sargasso weed for biofuel and cosmetics, she said, adding that this will convert a nuisance on the beaches into a valuable resource.

MATILDA ERNKRANS, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, recalled that a few weeks ago, the world commemorated 50 years since the first United Nations environment conference, held in Stockholm in 1972. Stockholm+50, hosted by Sweden and Kenya, provided a much-needed global push for urgently accelerating a green and blue transition globally and to fulfil the 2030 Agenda. Without a healthy ocean, the Agenda cannot be achieved. However, Goal 14 is heavily underfinanced, he said, stressing that new blue capital is needed. Climate change and carbon emissions are the biggest threats to the ocean and the coastal communities that depend on it. Sweden has committed $800 million to its Global Development Cooperation Strategy for Environment, Climate and Biodiversity from 2022 to 2026. Nationally, it has entered a path of transition and greening of industries to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2045. Noting that Sweden and Fiji hosted the first Ocean Conference, he said if the legacy of that Conference is global awareness and mobilization of stakeholders and action, the legacy of the Lisbon Conference will be solutions at scale and speed.

JOAQUIM ALVARO PEREIRA LEITE, Minister for the Environment of Brazil, emphasized that current negotiations aimed at promoting the sustainable use of maritime environments must continue and culminate in a legally binding agreement on the preservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. A global agreement to reduce plastic pollution is also needed, and the principle of common yet differentiated responsibility must be included therein. He went on to detail national efforts to safeguard ocean and coastal areas, including efforts to protect 27 per cent of Brazil’s marine areas, establish sanctuaries for dolphins and whales, eliminate open-air landfills, promote recycling programmes, remove environmental pollution resulting from packaging and recycle millions of car batteries. The Government also works to conserve and sustain fisheries by combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and imposing better control measures and quotas. He added that his country will “show the world that the blue future is here right now in Brazil”.

RIYAD AL-MALIKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine, speaking in his capacity as an observer, expressed Palestine’s commitment to the protection of marine ecosystems and to the resilience of millions of the communities whose livelihoods and viability depend on them, including the Palestinian people themselves in the occupied Gaza Strip. Reiterating that Israel’s illegal occupation and inhumane blockade is the main hurdle to the realization of development goals, he said it is also the main cause of the ongoing environmental crisis, making Gaza unhabitable and its beaches polluted. The developed countries have an unassailable responsibility towards protecting and restoring the ocean, including through financing, enhanced capacity-building, cooperation in marine scientific research, and mitigation and adaptation. Palestine is also committed to ocean justice, he said.

MARIO SILJEG, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Croatia, highlighted his country’s 500 kilometres of coast and many islands, describing the latter as “valuable and vulnerable assets”. Thanks to Croatia’s long tradition of protecting marine ecosystems, more than 12 per cent of its coast is protected. But given that scientific evidence calls for collective effort to do much more, the country has committed to set aside 30 per cent of the sea area within its national jurisdiction under protection. Turning to the problem of urban wastewater, he noted that addressing that is essential to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation. Stressing the importance of building links between Goal 6 and Goal 14 on life below water, he also pointed to the increasing microplastic pollution and underscored the need to create circular economies. Noting that “seas and oceans connect us, but they also suffer due to human activity”, he said Croatia is coordinating with neighbouring countries on the matter of transboundary pollution in the Adriatic Sea.

MALCOLM NOONAN, Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform of Ireland, detailing his country’s close relationship with the ocean, said that Ireland champions collaboration to protect the ocean through the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic. Further, the Government collaborates with other nations through the European Union’s marine environmental policies, as well as through global actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on Biological Diversity. On a national level, Ireland is addressing marine litter through a wide range of practical measures, including those focusing on the circular economy, waste and litter control, wastewater management, beach cleaning programmes and initiatives encouraging fishers to bring litter collected ashore. He also pointed out that his country is expanding its fleet of ocean-going research vessels to build on its leadership in marine science and support the conservation and sustainable use of ocean resources. He went on to highlight Ireland’s strong connection with small island developing States and other coastal States and said his country recently announced approximately €10 million in funding to support international ocean action.

VASSILIOS DEMETRIADES, Shipping Deputy Minister to the President of Cyprus, said his country is an island of stunning natural beauty with rocky shores, capes, coves and beautiful beaches. This mosaic with different types of habitats enables the island to host many marine species of fauna and flora, several of which are priority species that need protection. To this end, Cyprus has initiated studies to acquire further scientific knowledge of its sea’s ecosystems and biological richness, ecological status, and to identify the most important areas requiring protection. Marine surveys have focused on the mapping of sensitive marine habitats in all coastal waters and the deep ecosystems of the Eratosthenes Seamount. Cyprus has implemented waste management policies to address the problem of marine litter from land-based sources. He also pointed to a nation-wide system to separate and collect recyclables and organic waste.

LÍDIA DE FÁTIMA DA GRAÇA CARDOSO, Minister for Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries of Mozambique, stressing the unique stock-taking opportunity presented by the current conference, said the sea continues to be a main source of income and survival for her maritime nation. Noting the threats posed by climate change, she pointed to hurricanes, droughts and floods. Fostering coastal resilience is a priority for her Government, she said, adding that it can also help generate employment, ensure food security and nutrition and empower youth. Mozambique remains committed to protecting 30 per cent of its coastal area, she said, pointing to an action plan for combating waste and a development strategy for a blue economy. Highlighting financial limitations and the delay in mobilizing funding, she also underscored the need for maritime security to tackle illegal migration, unregulated fishing and smuggling of psychotropic substances.

ZAC GOLDSMITH, Minister for the Pacific and the International Environment of the United Kingdom, expressing concern about the Russian Federation’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, said it is impossible to exaggerate how much the international community is undermining the oceanic ecosystem. Hundreds of millions of people depend on fishing and many more depend on fish as food, he said, noting that the ocean has just half the wildlife today that it had in the 1970s. While technology will continue to play a pivotal role in the transformation to a low-carbon future, there is no technological substitute for natural resources. “But given half a chance, nature recovers,” he said, stressing that at a time when there is very little trust between people and power, making good on environmental promises matters more than ever. Highlighting his Government’s increased climate finance investment, he said its Blue Planet Fund is helping coastal communities secure marine environments.

JOHN M. SILK, Minister for Natural Resources and Commerce of the Marshall Islands, said his country is leading coastal conservation efforts through its Reimaanlok commitments, which place local communities and traditional practices at the forefront of resource management and protected areas. It is using this to meet the national target of conserving half of all its coastal areas by 2030, and to support regional action through the Pacific Islands Forum 2050 strategy for a Blue Pacific. This strategy will also reaffirm the Pacific Leaders’ Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change-Related Sea-Level Rise, securing Pacific States’ rights and entitlement to resources within their jurisdiction. At the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Marshall Islands continues its push for strong action that ensures an equitable transition to zero emission shipping by 2050 at the latest, driven by a carbon levy starting at $100 per ton in 2025.

SHINGO MIYAKE, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that to promote the sustainable use of fisheries resources, his country has been closely working with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and regional fisheries management organizations. Japan has also aided developing countries, including in Africa, by providing vessel equipment and capacity-building support, and it has established an act to prevent products of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing-origin from entering into its market by requesting catch certificates. Japan’s “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” aims to eliminate additional pollution from marine plastic litter by 2050, and its “MARINE Initiative” helps developing countries, including small island developing States, improve waste management capacity. Tokyo has also successfully trained over 6,000 people engaging in waste management worldwide. In addition, it registered 18 voluntary commitments, allocating at least $24 million to achieve Goal 14, with a view to showcasing them as a policy model that can be widely shared.

SILAS BULE MELVE, Ministry for Climate Change of Vanuatu, recalling the international community’s collective agreement to address the declining health of the ocean at the 2017 Ocean Conference, cautioned that the window to act will close by the end of this decade. Stressing the need for transformative action to protect Vanuatu’s ecosystem, including its coral reefs, he said that the country, as part of a coalition of the willing, is planning to ask the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on how existing international law contains protections for the oceans. While this is a court case, the aim is not to assign blame to anyone, but to find a path to bolster ambitious climate action, he clarified, calling on the international community to support the resolution his delegation will table at the next General Assembly session. The extractive focus of colonial aspirations has led to the current political, economic and environmental disasters, he said, calling on Member States to join his country on a more holistic path.

STEVEN THOMAS, Director-General of the Maritime Administration Department, Ministry for Public Works of Guyana, said that millions of people depend on the oceans for food and livelihood, even as acidification, rising sea levels, global warming and pollution threatens life below water. Pointing to the challenging task of developing blue economies while also mitigating the impact of climate change, he said his country hosts 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater and its forests serve as carbon sinks. Maritime security must evolve to include not only national security but also environmental protection. Outlining Guyana’s ocean protection strategies, he highlighted the draft maritime economy plan, the mangrove restoration programme and a strategic approach to single-use plastics. Policies aimed at the implementation of Goal 14 must be based on science, he said, stressing the need to leverage partnerships in capacity-building and technology transfer.

GRACIELA MÁRQUEZ COLÍN, President of the National Institute for Geography and Statistics of Mexico, noting that her country is an oceanic nation, stressed that a sustainable ocean economy is urgently needed to deliver social justice and drive sustainable growth and prosperity. Mexico is a member of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, a multilateral initiative that aims to catalyse the necessary transformations to achieve Goal 14. Stressing the need to ensure ocean sustainability, he said Mexico has identified the requisite funding for activities toward that end. Climate change poses the greatest challenge for the health of the oceans. Therefore, the Government is developing a crosscutting and multisectoral policy to align its ocean activities to address the challenges of climate change. She recognized the work of young people at the Conference who have delivered a clear message calling for greater commitment, less speeches and more action.

ERIC KWA, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said the ocean is essential to the identity of its people. His country established its first-ever national ocean policy in July 2020, an integrated framework that addresses ocean governance and management, demonstrating its commitment to implement Goal 14. Establishment of the requisite institutional arrangements, regulatory reforms and infrastructure platforms are ongoing, including of a marine scientific research monitoring and database system. Welcoming support from development partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Japan International Cooperation Agency and Wildlife Conservation for Nature, he said Papua New Guinea is working towards the declaration this year of marine protected areas covering over 17,000 square kilometres. Once concluded, the declaration will be included in the Oceans Voluntary Commitments register.

ABDELMADJID NAAMOUNE (Algeria), noting the role of oceans as absorbers of greenhouse gases, said that protecting this resource is an excellent opportunity to guarantee subsistence for millions at a time when the world is recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic. Noting the extent of his country’s territorial waters, coastline and islands, he spotlighted the overriding importance of the Mediterranean Sea. Voicing support for the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, he said Algeria has developed several monitoring programmes at the national level to comply with this agreement. The country is also focusing on rational fisheries management, he said, noting the need for an international legal system for sustainable use of oceans that takes into account the sovereignty of all States.

Source: United Nations